Thursday, 10 July 2014

Wot no Grinkle?

Somebody once said "It is better to travel hopefully...", but I think what they actually meant was "It is better to travel with a pork pie in your stomach..." And so it was on Tuesday this week - JP gave me a lift, in the car, up to Saltburn, and we stopped for pies in Hinderwell on the way - hurrah!

I've been to Saltburn before, and I remember it being a lot mankier than it is now. I think everything in town must have been refurbished recently - perhaps because it's nearly the summer holidays - but I was really impressed. The cliff lift was working and the pier actually had people walking on it - certainly the first time I've ever seen that happen! They even had lifeguards, but as I was up on the clifftop, I couldn't tell if they were hot or not.

As I said my goodbyes to JP (he was driving back) - he pointed out a freight train, slowly trundling it's way along the top of distant Huntcliff - but more of that later... First stop for me was Saltburn's very own station, conveniently sited right in the town centre, and still in use as the terminus of the Northern Rail branch from Middlesbrough and Darlington.  
To be fair, the above photo really doesn't do Saltburn any justice - the main building is lovely, but isn't used by trains any more. The train-shed and original main platforms have been removed and replaced by a Sainsburys, and the various offices and waiting rooms are now used as shops and offices. The current tracks now terminate at what historically were the excursion platforms, but it's better than nothing I suppose - people certainly seemed to be using the area. There was much more of an air of prosperity than my next destination...

Walking away from Saltburn, I headed into the leafy gloom of the Valley Gardens, on the Cleveland Way. Although tarmac, the paths were very slimy and damp - it had been quite rainy during the night - but the local dogwalkers didn't seem bothered, nor did their dogs! After a short while, the path dropped down to the valley bottom, and crossed the beck, which was turbulent and muddy, and went underneath the Saltburn railway viaduct. I'm not sure if it's because of the enclosed location - virtually in a gorge - but looking up at it, it seems ridiculously high! I'm sure it looks higher than the Larpool viaduct at Whitby, and it's still used by freight trains occasionally.

As I approached Skelton-in-Cleveland, the Ordnance Survey failed me - a new road and housing estate had been built at some point in the intervening years since I bought my map (I think I was still at school, so it's been quite a while), so I just located a church spire and headed towards that. Eventually I reached Skelton's High Street, so was able to get my bearings properly - and oh my, what a glamorous place it is...

In a way, Skelton made me feel nostalgic - the cracked pavements and old red brick houses reminded me of growing up in South Yorkshire in the 1980s, so much so I found myself humming the music from The Full Monty as I meandered along!
The Big Tile Map has Skelton named on it, but doesn't have a little square blob to show it as a station - it just has the symbol for a castle. After a bit of research, I can only presume that's because it was opened to all traffic until 1902 (although goods were handled from 1875). Despite the confusion, I thought it best to take a photo of myself there anywyay - not that there was much to see. The stationmaster's house survives, but the platforms and everything else have vanished without trace...

From Skelton (or more properly "North Skelton", as it was known) I passed some allotments and some nice fat hens, then joined the main road for a while. I passed under a couple of railway bridges (one with tracks, one without), and then turned onto a public footpath across the fields, roughly parallel with the rail track toward Brotton. Looking back along the coast, I could still see Saltburn in the distance, and the cliffs heading away towards County Durham.
The outskirts of Brotton were heralded by a disused mine (Shafts capped in 1993, according to the signs) - and then another new road, crossed by a high footbridge which led into a field of Highland cows. Luckily the cows ignored me - possibly more distracted by the freight train I'd seen earlier returning to Teesside - and I was soon walking along a back lane, behind some down-at-heel terraced houses. One of Brotton's lesser know (!?) claims to fame is that it is the former home of the designer of the Rolls Royce "Spirit of Ecstasy". True fact. I saw the plaque and everything!

Brotton is built on a big hill. The lower part, where the former station is now a garage, is rough as proverbial arseholes, but the top part - technically Brotton Parva seemed quite well-off (comparatively). I think the top bit must be the old, original village - perhaps the air was better up there...
Brotton - rhymes with rotten...
Continuing through the nice bit, the road drops down the hill again, and the view is dominated by sea to the left, the big TATA (?) steelworks straight ahead at Carlin How. On the way down the hill, I saw a nice caterpillar (black, furry, glittery spikes - bit like an outfit at Whitby Goth Weekend, and reached another new road that wasn't on my map. There was a big roudabout, with a blue metal thing in the middle, which on first glance looked like some sort of modernist sculpture, but was actually some sort of industrial grabbing-tool, left over from the metalworking industry. Carlin How signalbox stood silently by the railway leading to the steel sidings - it's semaphores rusting in the sea air - and then I was in Carlin How itself. ot that there's much to it...

The village is basically a long line of houses facing the steelworks. As I passed the steelworks, I took a picture. A man across the road, in the entrance to the Working Men's Institute called across: "It's a shithole mate. I was there twenty fuckin' year". The Full Monty came back into my mind again.
Carlin How
The old station at Carlin How has been just about obliterated. I think I found the right spot - there was a small building with ornate chimneys slowly rotting away amongst the used cars, industrial containers and asbestos sheds which looked very railway-ish - maybe a former coal merchant's hut?

Crossing the zigzag
Rather than carrying on along the main road down to the bottom of the valley, I cross the bridge over the line, and walked down some steep steps through some scrubby undergrowth. Nothing special at first glance, but this was the site of the Skinningrove zig-zag. From Carlin How (later renamed Skinningrove), a branchline used to lead down to some ironstone mines and a bleak little harbour facing out to the Arctic. Because of the nature of the terrain, trains used to shuttle backwards and forwards down the hill changing direction several times, like they do in the Andes, but of course nothing remains, other than an occasional clearing, and an odd metal bridge over a lawn and some hen coops.

There's very little at the bottom of the valley - not the bit I saw anyway - so I rejoined the road, and made my way up the bank to Loftus...

What can I say about Loftus? It's a strange place. It's got a huge JobCentre (in the old Temperance Hall); most of the shops are boarded-up with those special sheets that are supposed to look like upmarket shopfronts, but most of them were broken or vandalised,; and the Station Hotel sells "Fakerbombs" at £1.50 from midday every day. The old town hall is impressive, and there's some nice old buildings that look a bit like Pickering, if Pickering was populated by people in shellsuits with dogs on ropes.
Loftus station - or as some like to call it "Bethany"!?
The old station in Loftus is a short way out of town, along the inevitable Station Road, and like the others today, still has tracks passing. The waiting room/booking office part has been knocked down, and the platform is long gone, but the stationmaster's house is still in evidence. In a change from the usual "Station House" or "Beeching's Folly" or the like, it's now called "Bethany"...

Carrying on the final leg of the journey, I carried on out of Loftus, past a vandalised church, an abandoned Methodist chapel, a selection of ruinous shops, a closed-down pub, and the derelict Arriva Bus depot - now masquerading, through the medium of the aforementioned faux-shop fronts, as "Virtual Furniture"... Poor Loftus...

My last old station of the day was (according at least to the Big Tile Map) was Easington - later renamed Grinkle (gutted I can't put "Grinkle" in the labels at the right!). Biggest disappointment of the day! The closest I could get was a locked gate, with a view of plain track and an expanse of ballast in the middle distance. Yes, Easington/Grinkle is probably the least inspiring of all the stations I've visited so far. Apart from the existence of railway lines, there is nothing to tell it was ever there. Boo!
Easington (or Grinkle) - Rubbish.
(Possibly slightly better than Hornsea Bridge...)
Disappointment was compounded when I walked into the village, and couldn't find the bus stop which the timetable listed as "Twizziegill View", so I had to make do with getting on the number 4 back to Whitby at a stop called "Church". All was made better though, by a trip to Wetherspoons with Gotho, for wine and meat. All's well that ends well :)

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